Wed Jun 25th, 2008 at 01:22:06 PM EST
There is a lot of interesting discussion in the European blogosphere about issues related to the Irish referendum. Like the list of demands of Sinn Féin. Like the speculation about funding of Libertas by the American defence establishment. The latter is typical 'undernews' that is, for now, being ignored by the mainstream media.
But let's not lose sight of the big picture.
The Lisbon Treaty did not fail the Irish referendum due to evil American defence corporations, rich Irish corporate hacks, or because it had some elements that irked a small post-marxist Irish party. It failed because it failed to take into account basic emotional responses that any European electorate would have had. If put to a referendum, it would fail in the vast majority of European Union Member States.
(based upon this post over on my blog)
The key item to understand is something I noticed-slash-learned of quite a long time ago. I wrote about it in reaction to a proposal by Andrew Duff, a LibDem MEP who means well but is too starry-eyed about the EU, to save the dead 'Constitution' by rewriting the policy part and then trying to get it through again. I wrote:
DJ Nozem: EU Plans Galore!
My opinion is that Andrew Duff's plans are - in every single aspect - undesirable and unrealistic. The dynamic of a second round of referendums will be the same. People will be confronted with a European Union they neither think a lot, know a lot, or care a lot about. These people will see a document that is confusing but threatens (already by its name) to increase the powers and importance of this entity, will be alarmed and will vote it down. You need to go to the voters with something they can understand after minimal effort. The 'Constitution' is only comprehensible to those who understand EU law and spent many hours reading it.
This applies - mutatis mutandis
- in full force to the Lisbon Treaty. Its name was slightly better, although I believe that retaining 'Reform Treaty' would have been more effective. Its contents, however, were even more obscure than those of the 'Constitution'.
The failure of Lisbon is due to the lack of a coherent narrative, the normal baseline of public perception of the EU (low saliency, just another regulator), the obscurity of the treaty. This logically leads to ignorance and a scare reaction - and those logically lead to a 'no' vote.
How is the EU actually perceived, by people who are not regularly engaging with it? There is little research on that - that I know of. The research that I have seen indicates that they normally perceive the EU as having the significance of a national regulatory body. On the contrary, most pro-EU people think that it is destined to be a major superpower, and the face of future global governance that will deliver peace and prosperity to all.
It's time for those people to start thinking more about the present.
The gap between how the vast 'silent majority' perceives the European Union and how the majority of those inundated with EU politics perceive it and think it is perceived is immeasurable. The latter are living in a fantasy of what could ideally be. By now, that bubble should have burst.